Mets teammates: Perez will go to DL

NEW YORK -- The Mets dumped outfielder Gary Matthews Jr., placed second baseman Luis Castillo on the disabled list and revealed that outfielder Carlos Beltran participate in an extended spring training game for the first time on Friday.

And yet the most intriguing decision got deferred: How will the Mets clear the roster room for left-hander Jonathon Niese's return from the disabled list to face the Florida Marlins?

Teammates believe they know. And, assuming they're correct, it will avoid a potentially ugly confrontation with left-hander Oliver Perez about whether he will finally accept going to the minor leagues.

Multiple teammates told ESPNNewYork.com that they expected Perez would be placed on the disabled list. One player said Perez had an MRI on a knee. The Mets for some time had been trying to get Perez to accept a demotion to the minors, but Perez had refused, as is his right.

A Mets spokesman said no announcement of a move would come until Saturday.

Even with the Niese roster decision deferred, the Mets had a flurry activity before beating the Florida Marlins 4-3, thanks to solid contributions from knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and reliever Elmer Dessens and a tightrope save from closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Matthews, acquired from the Los Angeles Angels for reliever Brian Stokes on Jan. 22 along with $21.5 million of the $23.5 million owed to the outfielder through 2011, was designated for assignment before the series opener. He was hitting .190 with one RBI in 58 at-bats.

That move cleared room for a third catcher, Omir Santos, while Henry Blanco recovers from a cortisone shot to the neck to try to relieve discomfort from a herniated disc.

Santos was promoted from Double-A Binghamton, where he recently endured an 0-for-20 slump. Triple-A Buffalo catcher Josh Thole could not be selected because he was hit in the head with a backswing Wednesday.

General manager Omar Minaya acknowledged the Mets would promote an outfielder and return Santos to the minors within a few days, once Blanco's trouble is behind him. At that point, Minaya said, the Mets could promote outfielder Jesus Feliciano for his major league debut.

Feliciano's agent, Melvin Roman, told Puerto Rico-based El Nuevo Dia that Minaya informed him Feliciano would be promoted shortly.

In the interim, the Mets do not have a bona fide center fielder to back up Angel Pagan. If Pagan were forced to leave a game, manager Jerry Manuel said, he would shift left fielder Jason Bay to center field and use Chris Carter in left field.

Castillo has been dealing with a bone bruise beneath the ball of his left foot. Because of overcompensation, his right heel started bothering him as well. After an examination Thursday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, it was determined Castillo would be best served resting for two weeks.

Ruben Tejada, 20, was promoted from Triple-A Buffalo and will get the regular starting duty at second base over Alex Cora, according to Manuel. Tejada, who spent the first week on the major league roster while Jose Reyes was on the DL, doubled in the first at-bat of his return and scored. He later had an RBI on a fielder's choice and finished 1-for-4.

Manuel said he will use Pagan in Castillo's customary No. 2 spot in the batting order.

Meanwhile, the Mets downplayed Beltran's achievement Friday in Port St. Lucie, Fla. -- calling it "nothing crazy." The center fielder, who has been out since Jan. 13 arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, played in a game-type setting for the first time this year. The switch-hitter batted three times from each side of the plate and had two singles in six at-bats as a DH in the extended spring training game. He did not run beyond first base in the controlled setting.

Still, Manuel said, it is "fair to start the clock" on Beltran's return -- even if it may be a month away.

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.